Table of Contents
For a long time, I refused to use a capo. To me, it seemed like cheating.
And to some degree it is. Anyone who can play without touching one deserves extra kudos.
However, there are some keys are simply much more difficult to play, and require thousands of hours of practice.
I finally had to ask myself if I was going to miss out on playing my favorite songs simply because I was too proud to use a Capo.
In the end, I found that it added a whole new range to my playing, and made it much more enjoyable. What the greater enjoyment, came more desire to practice, and my skill level improved greatly.
- Learning To Play With A Capo
- Spring Clamp Versus C-Clamp Designs
- Will The It Damage Your Guitar?
- Can You Use A Capo On An Electric Guitar?
Buyer’s Guide to 2017’s Best Value Capos
1. The G7th Performance (Six String)
This is essentially the Cadillac of capos. I’ll be honest…the difference between the G7th and the others is pretty exciting. Check it out: while most typically fall into two categories–“quick release”, spring-style models and those with an adjustable tension screw–the G7th has actually invented a category of its own, with a one-handed clamping mechanism that is truly different from the others.
You simply position the G7th on the guitar’s neck and squeeze it shut with your hand. Opening it for re-positioning comes with a flick of the release lever located on the back. It couldn’t be easier.
While it’s true that the G7th costs more than most of its competitors, fans of this model have said over and over that you really do “get what you pay for”. So why is the G7th Performance Capo such a favorite among musicians?
For starters, the aforementioned clamping mechanism offers you exceptional control over the tension being exerted on the strings. Since too much tension can result in a tiny, weak tone (not to mention excessive wear and tear on your fretboard), this is something to be choosy about.
Also noteworthy is the cushioning, which provides several key benefits. Firstly, it protects your fretboard from scratches and dings that might otherwise result from the contact between the zinc alloy of the unit and your guitar’s neck. The cushioning is also designed to provide even pressure, mimicking your fingertips on the strings, which minimizes the need to retune your instrument after each re-positioning. In fact, many users find they don’t need to tune up at all between uses.
Lastly, the cushion on this model eliminates the buzzing and ringing typically associated with cheaper models and makes for a clearer sound, truer to your guitar’s natural tone.
Now, some users may find the G7th is clumsy to move around quickly and, because of that, may prefer a spring tension model (like the Kyser KG6B mentioned below) for quick transitions between songs. Also, the jaw has shown to be a poor fit for guitars with much thicker necks (such as some Martin models).
In addition, the “squeeze to clamp” mechanism makes it difficult to find the right tension to properly barre the strings. You’ve got to spend some time learning what the right touch is for the sound you are after.
The weight of the G7th is also something to consider. It’s heavy enough to make a noticeable difference in the balance of your instrument when playing. However, the heavy duty zinc alloy construction is actually an asset that makes it well worth the higher price tag. And, it’s worth noting that the G7th Performance comes with a lifetime warranty.
Overall, this is a professional product with a high-end look and feel that can provide a lifetime of consistent, buzz-free performance. And it’s a nifty gadget to show off to your musical buddies.
2. Planet Waves NS
The Planet Waves NS is a capo I endorse with much enthusiasm. It’s been my primary stage companion for years and I don’t anticipate replacing it for a long time. This capo features an adjustable screw tension that exerts as much or as little pressure on the strings as you wish.
With a more moderate price tag than the G7th, it offers many of the same benefits. The aircraft grade aluminum is durable, yet lightweight, providing a resilient piece of equipment that won’t alter the balance of your instrument, as some musicians have found the G7th to do.
The cushioning is exceptional, leaving no dings or extra wear on your fretboard and providing an enjoyable playing experience without any buzzing or ringing. I’ve found that the cushioning on this model leaves little discernible difference in my guitar’s tone (significantly better than the quick release models I’ve tried out) and I seldom need to re-tune it after re-positioning it.
Now, some musicians find that the shorter “arm” found on the reverse clamp is annoying. While this is largely a matter of preference, it’s worth noting that it leads many musicians to opt for a model more like the G7th Performance I discussed above. Other guitarists have found that the NS is a poor fit for guitars with especially slim necks, finding that they’re unable to get sufficient tension.
Lastly, some guitarists, in comparing this model to the quick-release style caps, have also experienced frustration over the more involved act of adjusting the tension screw and the inability to clamp this type to the headstock when it’s not in use. Truth be told, this has never been a deterrent for me, as I can still easily adjust it with one hand (even though I have tiny little elf hands) and I typically keep it handy in my pocket or case (or, more honestly, on the floor) when I’m playing something in a live setting.
For those who would be inconvenienced by an issue like this, I recommend sticking with the Kyser or Dunlop quick release capos I’ve highlighted below. Both clamp easily onto the headstock, but you may have to sacrifice some dimension in your instrument’s tone in exchange for that convenience.
To sum it up, if you’re not sure you’re ready to commit to the price tag on the “Cadillac of capos” (a.k.a. the G7th), the Planet Waves NS is my recommendation for you. It’s versatile, easy to use, with a lifetime of high-quality sound ahead of it.
3. Kyser KG6B 6 String
The Kyser KG6B is generally regarded as the most popular “quick release” style option. To operate, you squeeze the capo to open and release to clamp with a fixed, spring operated tension. Musicians seek out a Kyser when they want a simple, one-handed accessory that they can move around quickly and easily clamp to the headstock when it’s not in use.
The KG6B comes in a startling array of colors, including specialty varieties like “Camo” (perhaps for the musically inclined hunter on your gift list?) and a kitschy, patriotic “Red White Blue”, decked out in familiar stars and stripes. Tamer colors–including black, silver, and pink–are also available. There’s really something for everyone (except, perhaps, something for somebody who doesn’t play the guitar).
While some musicians love that the KG6B’s quick mechanism doesn’t require any adjustment, others miss the versatility that comes with the adjustable screws on other models. Among these players, the spring-loaded Kyser has a reputation for pulling strings out of tune and increasing wear and tear on fret boards that weren’t designed to withstand the “one size fits all” pressure of quick release capos. The mechanism, while simple (squeeze and release) can also give your hands a workout. You may also find the extra tension affecting the tone of your instrument, giving it a thin, harsh sound. Musicians with small hands or a weaker grip might experience some discomfort moving this one around during a set.
That said, fans of the Kyser brand appreciate its simplicity and consistency.There’s something to be said for a capo you don’t have to screw and unscrew every time you want to change keys.
This is a great choice for musicians who do a lot of live playing in multiple keys and want one that can keep up and switch gears as quickly as their music does.
4. Jim Dunlop 83CB Guitar Capo
This is another quick release option. While not as widely popular as Kyser models, I like to think of the 83CB as Kyser’s cuter friend. It comes in 5 classy colors, including the sophisticated “Maple” (with a faux wood grain) and my personal favorite color in the lineup, “Smoked Chrome” (seriously, it’s just plain cool).
This capo has great cushioning, which minimizes any buzzing and ringing and keeps your guitar’s tone as close to its unbarred quality as it can. It also goes a long way to prevent dings in your finish and excessive wear and tear on your fretboard.
The 83CB has been known to pull on the strings a little bit, requiring the occasional tuning adjustment in between songs. It can also be tougher to move reposition than the Kyser models, which means your hands will get a more intense workout and they may be a little achy when you’re done with your performance if you capo a lot.
Some musicians have also reported that the cushioning leaves a dark mark or stain on the fretboard and headstock of their instruments, so this is something to consider before using the 83CB in conjunction with your favorite vintage instrument, especially if it’s lighter in color.
This is a great option for artists who are looking out for an alternative to the Kyser. It’s an especially good choice for those who are seeking a capo with better cushioning in an awesome color (again, I offer a tip of the hat to “Smoked Chrome”).
5. Need A Choice For A Curved Fretboard? Try The Shubb C4
Sometimes life throws you a curve. Sometimes it’s a 7.25 radius curve on your favorite six-string. If that’s you, you may be thinking to yourself, “Yes, those four capos all look great, but not one of them will work on my Fender.” Fear not, quirky reader, I’ve included a bonus round for you, and it’s a good one.
The Shubb C4, much like its straight and narrow brother, the C1, possesses the unique combination of an adjustable tension screw and a quick release lever. This means you can adjust it until you’ve found the right tension for your instrument and then all you have to do to re-position it in the future is to clip it on and take it off with a simple lever mechanism.
It’s a smooth, one-handed operation without the permanent “tension attack” of some of the others often chosen for curved fretboards.
In recent years, the Shubb C4 (and almost all other Shubbs, actually) has evolved with the introduction of a roller wheel, replacing the original Delrin cap found on older models. This makes for an even smoother mechanism when repositioning.
As with the other adjustable tension models, this one won’t clamp onto your headstock. You’ll have to keep it in your pocket, on the music stand, dangling from your nose, or find some other storage solution. Many musicians also prefer the swift, one-step method of quick release capos, which don’t require any adjustment to get a solid barre.
Still, if you can solve the puzzle of where to put your capo when you’re playing open strings, your ingenuity will be rewarded with years and years of consistent tone without any buzzing or ringing and little need to retune in between.
Shubb even offers a replacement cushion on their website, should you ever wear yours out (though I played with a Shubb for several years and eventually passed it down to a new guitar player who, last I checked, was still using it. These guys don’t wear out easily.).
It’s my first and only recommendation for anyone with a 7.25 curved fret board. The slim profile and general coolness of its design can’t be beaten.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How Do I Use A Capo?
I like to put the Capo on right behind a fret. Just behind the fret seems to help keep it from sliding down as you play, and that position makes it easy to keep the strings from buzzing.
You also want to make sure to keep it on parallel with the fret to make sure it doesn’t bend the strings. If it clamps the strings unevenly or bends them, it can make the guitar sound out of tune.
Learning how to play with it was challenging. I had to learn how to rethink my chord progressions and calculate which chords to use for each position.
You see, once you barre a fret, you need to subtract ½ step from each chord. For example with the Capo on the first fret, an A♭ becomes a G. Now a G chord is much easier to finger, but you have to learn how to rethink the chord progression while you play.
For the first little while, I practiced with a cheat sheet. I tried to calculate in my head and then would double-check my answer before I played. But after little while, it became second nature to play with the Capo.
Can The Capo Hurt My Guitar?
Thankfully the manufacturers of capos are also very concerned about the same thing. You will find that they are padded well, and offer little risk to your instrument.
The only thing is, I would never leave it on for storage, or long periods of time. Not only does it risk damaging the guitar over the time (slight as it may be), if you leave it on between practices it will cause your strings to need more retuning.
Spring Versus C-clamp Capos
The spring clamp design is easier to slip on, but is bulkier, and may get the way of playing. Also, you have to make sure to line up the clamp properly to keep the guitar in tune. That can be a little hard to do with a spring clamp.
However, the spring-operated designs are by far the favorite, thanks to their one-handed operation.
And, as I review above, the G7th Performance Capo helps combine the one-handed operation of the spring-design with the locking design of a c-clamp for the best of both worlds.
Electric Guitar Capos
It is not as common to see them used on electric guitars. There are several reasons for this. So much of playing an electric guitar has to do with playing individual notes. And so you just play the note. No fancy accessories needed.
The other aspect is that electric strings are much easier to depress than acoustic strings are. So it is easier to master those barre chords that drive so many acoustic guitarists to insanity.
However, if you were doing a lot of rhythm work and decide that you want a Capo, any standard model should work on your electric guitar just as well as it would on an acoustic one.